The Caucasus (Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan)
The Caucasus region is a mountainous area nestled between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, including the countries of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Not unlike the Balkans, it is a cultural crossroads connecting Europe and Asia and a plethora of historical influences (Persian, Ottoman, Russian…), religions (Islam, Eastern Orthodox Christian, and Armenian Apostolic), at least a dozen languages, and distinctive local traditions.
Magnificent natural beauty, genuinely hospitable people, picturesque rural countryside, and vibrant capitals make this part of the world an exciting, offbeat discovery. Still unheard of by many Western travelers, the Caucasus countries are hidden treasures for the well-traveled looking for new destinations more off the beaten track and without the tourist crowds. Oh, and did we mention that the Caucasus is the world’s oldest winemaking region, dating back at least 8,000 years.
Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan each have their distinct culture and traditions and are thus able to provide a great variety of experiences within a relatively small geographic area. With a week to spend, you can either focus on one country (my first choice would be Georgia as it offers the most diversity) or split your time between the capital cities Yerevan and Tbilisi, with maybe a night or two in-between on the alpine Lake Sevan or in the Dilijan mountain resort. Tbilisi’s Old Town with its winding streets, shaded squares, and bohemian cafes, restaurants, and bars is a fascinating area to explore. Yerevan is a surprising study of contrasts – old-world teahouses and trendy wine bars, Soviet-era architecture softened by lively squares, street cafes, and parks, and imposing monuments next to cozy taverns offering traditional food and music.
With 7 - 10 days available, one option would be to explore more of Georgia and Armenia - the mountain region of Svaneti with breathtaking nature and historic villages with ancient defensive towers, the David Gareja cave monastery complex - a memorable illustration of medieval religious life and art (in Georgia), Echmiadzin – the spiritual heart of the Armenian Apostolic Church, or the cave monastery of the Holy Lance in Geghard (in Armenia). Alternatively, catch a flight from Tbilisi to Azerbaijan’s capital Baku or drive overnight with a stop in Sheki - a scenic town amidst mountains and oak forests which was once an important stop on the Great Silk Route.
Two weeks would allow a taste of all three countries and spending more time in Baku to not only explore its historic Inner City and glitzy modern architecture, but to also take day-trips to sites like Yanar Dag - the ‘Fire Mountain’ fueled by natural gas escaping from the ground, the Ateshgah temple of Zoroastrian fire-worshipers, the mud volcanoes, and the Qobustan open-air museum to see the fascinating prehistoric stone engravings.
Ready to explore the Caucasus region - Europe’s forgotten frontier? Get in touch and we can help you choose a group tour or put together a tailor-made holiday!